Tuesday, April 02, 2013
The importance of relationships
At this time of year it's worth pondering: many business people and economists think of themselves as Christians, but what implications does this carry for the way they view the world and conduct their affairs?
According to Michael Schluter, founder of Relationships Global and, these days, a business consultant, Christianity is a "relational" religion. If so, it doesn't sit easily with market capitalism as it is conceptualised by economists and practised by business people.
The primary emphasis of economics and business is on satisfying the wants of the individual. In this they give little priority to individuals' human relationships.
Is Christianity much different? Certainly, in the Evangelical version I grew up with, it too focuses on the individual. And you could be forgiven for wondering whether it pays much attention to relationships.
But here Schluter begs to differ. He says all of Christianity is a relational story. It starts with humankind created in God's image, but then the relationship is ruptured in the Garden of Eden. Finally, God comes to earth as a baby and ends up dying on a cross with the expressed purpose of restoring the broken relationship with humankind.
What does God require of us? Jesus summarised it: all the law and the prophets depend on two commandments - love God with all your heart, and love your neighbour as you love yourself. What could be more relational than that?
Schluter says life can be viewed from many perspectives: financial, environmental, individual, material. But "as Christians, we need to see all of reality through a relational lens if we are to look at the world as God sees it".
All of life is ultimately about relationships. For example, he says, "every financial transaction is an expression of an underlying relationship between nations, organisations or individuals".
The development of a society can be measured not in terms of economic growth but by the quality of relationships between individuals and between ethnic and other social groupings.
Education's goal can be defined as acquisition of wisdom for children to be able to serve their family and community, rather than acquisition of technical skills merely for personal career advantage.
"At a personal level, our happiness and wellbeing are determined primarily by the quality of our relationships. Arguably, financial issues - for example, debt and savings - matter to us primarily due to their relational implications," he says.
Above a certain income, wellbeing indices point to the central importance of relationships. Even for those below this income threshold it's not clear if the priority of income is for personal benefit or for group benefit, such as the care of children.
Debt is closely associated with depression and also with divorce, child abuse and social isolation, he says. Survival rates after serious illness are more closely associated with levels of relational support than with levels of income.
"It is easier to find someone financially rich and miserable than someone relationally rich and miserable," he says. "It is hard to find someone on their death bed who says, 'I wish I had spent more time in the office'."
The individualism of our culture leads us to miscalculate the significance of events because it takes little or no account of "externalities" - that is, the effects on third parties.
For example, companies and public service agencies move staff to new locations to maximise economic productivity, and economic analysis applauds their decision to do so. But no attempt is made to measure the social or relational costs of such dislocation, especially to spouses or partners, children, friends and parents and grandparents whose relationships have been disrupted.
Schluter says business, finance and public sector organisations are increasingly coming to recognise that financial evaluation of performance is insufficient.
"The purpose of companies is increasingly defined inclusively to recognise the significance of company decisions for many stakeholders, rather than instrumentally, where customers, suppliers and so on are regarded simply as means to increase shareholder profits."
Low levels of national debt - a measure of inter-generational loyalty - decrease economic instability and aid economic growth. Political stability is a foundation for economic prosperity, but depends on peaceful relations between ethnic and religious groups and between rich and poor.
Just one in eight Britons on sickness benefit is truly too ill to work: Almost a million drop benefits claim to avoid new test
Just one in eight people claiming sickness benefits has been found to be too ill to do any sort of job, it has emerged.
And almost 900,000 have dropped their claim to the taxpayer-funded benefits rather than undergo a new medical test as part of the Coalition welfare reforms.
Official figures released yesterday ahead of a string of changes to the tax and benefit system suggested the Government’s strategy is already having a dramatic effect.
reforms to tax and welfare system.jpg
Only 232,000 – one in eight of those tested so far – have been deemed by doctors to be too unwell to do any sort of work.
Another 837,000 who did take the test were found to be fit to work immediately, and a further 367,300 were judged able to do some level of work.
Some 30 people were claiming they were unfit to work because of blisters, while 60 cited acne and 2,110 said ‘sprains and strains’ rendered them unfit for employment.
The figures showed that 878,300 people – around a third of the 2.6million who were claiming incapacity benefit – have chosen to drop their claims rather than face a medical. A Department for Work and Pensions document said 1.44million Incapacity Benefit reassessments have so far been carried out by doctors.
Ministers say they are evidence of a ‘wasted generation’ of people who went on to benefits under Labour, and were never given any incentive or support to get back into work.
A series of controversial reforms to the benefits system comes into force this week.
These include an end to housing benefit subsidies for people in taxpayer-funded housing with spare rooms, an overall benefits cap limiting household claims to no more than £26,000 a year to match average salaries and a new personal independence payment to focus disability benefits on the worst off.
Working-age benefits and tax credits will rise by just 1 per cent from the start of the tax year on April 6 – the start of a three-year cap that represents a real-terms cut.
Conservative chairman Grant Shapps said the system of welfare dependency created by Labour was ‘evil’ and accused the party of using sickness benefits to ‘hide the unemployed’. He said Iain Duncan Smith’s new universal credit, which is to replace all the main out-of-work benefits, would ensure people are always better off if they take a job or increase their hours rather than continuing to depend on the state.
He told Sky News: ‘These are very big reforms – in fact the biggest since the war.
‘I think it’s really important we do have a system where people are supported into work, and where when somebody works, they always know they’re going to be better off than someone on benefits. That’s what this incredibly large reform, the universal credit, will achieve.
He added: ‘I think it’s completely unfair when people can’t work out whether they’d be better off or worse off if they work more than 16 hours or 24 hours or 30 hours, the various different limits which were in place with different benefits.
‘What we want is a system where people just know they will be better off if they’re working. And that’s what the universal credit will deliver.’ Mr Shapps said the welfare system had become ‘literally cruel, even evil to people’.
He added: ‘Nearly a million people have come off incapacity benefit before going for the test. They’ve taken themselves off. My big argument here is this is not these people were trying to play the system, as much as these people were forced into a system that played them.’
A coalition of churches, however, accused the Government of perpetuating myths about poverty in an attempt to justify welfare cuts.
In a joint report, the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Methodist church, the United Reformed church and the Church of Scotland said that the ‘systematic misrepresentation of the poorest in society’ was a matter of injustice. Economic Secretary Sajid Javid last night wrote to Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls ahead of this week’s changes asking him to say whether Labour – which has opposed every significant spending cut – would reverse them if elected.
Mr Javid insisted the Government was ‘reforming the tax and benefit system so that it works for hardworking people’.
The letter added: ‘But since you became Shadow Chancellor, Labour have opposed every single saving we are making to live within our means. Your only economic policy is more borrowing, more debt – more of how you got us into this mess in the first place.
‘And yet your opposition so far has not included any firm commitment as to whether you would actually reverse any of this Government’s decisions after the next election.’
Mr Javid asked whether Labour would reverse a string of measures that have a combined saving of £5billion a year for taxpayers.
Endangered: The First Amendment
The First Amendment to the Constitution was reserved for the position of highest priority of human rights in the minds of the British rebels who had founded the United States of America just thirteen years earlier. They had just settled into something of a routine with the rebuilding of the states and the resumption of commerce. But their perspective was as fresh as the war that won their freedom from King George III.
The First of our Bill of Rights reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” Four distinct rights are identified here. This article will address the foremost; religion.
For 300 years, the expatriation of Europeans to the new world was driven by discovery, commerce, and religious freedom. When the Colonies opted to “dissolve the political bands” with Great Britain, one of the“causes which impel[ed] them to the separation” was the King’s ancillary titles of Supreme Governor of the Church of England and Defender of the Faith. The freedoms for which the Founding Fathers pledged their lives, fortunes and sacred honor permeated their perspective, and nowhere more personal than this first named right of all the amendments.
Excerpts from Thomas Jefferson’s prolific writings, below, convey the advanced convictions of religious freedom that today struggles to show itself in a culture that seems to have slipped back into government centralism fit for a king.
“Had not the Roman government permitted free inquiry, Christianity could never have been introduced. Had not free inquiry been indulged at the era of the Reformation, the corruptions of Christianity could not have been purged away. If it be restrained now, the present corruptions will be protected, and new ones encouraged.”
“Galileo was sent to the Inquisition for affirming that the earth was a sphere; the government had declared it to be as flat as a trencher, and Galileo was obliged to abjure his error. This error, however, at length prevailed, the earth became a globe, and Descartes declared it was whirled round its axis by a vortex. The government in which he lived was wise enough to see that this was no question of civil jurisdiction, or we should all have been involved by authority in vortices. In fact, the vortices have been exploded, and the Newtonian principle of gravitation is now more firmly established, on the basis of reason, than it would be were the government to step in, and to make it an article of necessary faith.”
“Reason and experiment have been indulged, and error has fled before them. It is error alone which needs the support of government. Truth can stand by itself. Subject opinion to coercion: whom will you make your inquisitors? Fallible men; men governed by bad passions, by private as well as public reasons. And why subject it to coercion? To produce uniformity. … Difference of opinion is advantageous to religion.”
“Religion is well supported to preserve peace and order; or if a sect arises, whose tenets should subvert morals, good sense has fair play; and reasons and laughs it out of doors, without suffering the state to be troubled with it.”
Statists have fought the purity of the First Amendment for decades. The ACLU has managed to inculcate a popular belief in American culture and court systems that asserts the oppression that Thomas Jefferson railed against. And amazingly, they have used Jefferson’s words to accomplish their deceitful deed. In a letter of assurance to the Danbury Baptists Association of Connecticut, Jefferson wrote, “Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between church and State.”
Without a Congressional debate, nor vote in the Senate, or ratification of the states, the ACLU has managed to establish “separation between church and state” as constitutional dictum. This, from a letter that Jefferson closed with, “I reciprocate your kind prayers for the protection and blessing of the common Father and Creator of man, and tender you for yourselves and your religious association, assurances of my high respect and esteem.”
Unfortunately for 21st Century America, the throwbacks of monarchial centralism have successfully argued a reversal of the magnetic poles. This amendment intended for our liberty has instead been boorishly coined as “The Separation Clause.” Governments at all levels are fearful of acknowledging God while feeling obligated to advance the theories of evolution and global warming as articles of necessary faith.
But I am in awe of the concise and deliberate wording, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” No matter the sentiment, whether supportive or restrictive, governments do not have the authority to pass any laws regarding religion - period.
But the United States was not founded on agnosticism. And if the courts were to examine the whole of Jefferson’s writings they would find that it is wholly proper for governments to avow the existence of the God who was acknowledged at the signing of the declaration that begat the nation. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” Implied herein is that this Creator (1) is God of the laws of nature, (2) is the creator of humans, (3) intended for humans to share equal status among themselves, and (4) endowed all humans with unalienable rights which include life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Not every god fits this description; Sorry.
Specific theology about God are not to be advanced by governments beyond what is implied in the Declaration. So it is arguable that governments may not fund a nativity scene. But the acknowledgment of the existence and authority of God by government entities is no way in conflict with the First Amendment. Otherwise, the Declaration of Independence, believed by many in 1789 to be the original Bill of Rights, would itself be categorically unconstitutional.
A citizen is incapable of violating the First Amendment. As is evident with every one of the Bill of Rights, the First Amendment was never intended as a restriction on citizen behavior. It is a restriction on government alone. A valedictorian does not violate the First Amendment by proclaiming to her fellow graduates that she believes in Jesus Christ as her savior. But a school district that establishes a rule prohibiting her statement is in direct violation of the First Amendment.
During the period that Thomas Jefferson served as President, the largest church in the United States held their services in the U.S. Capitol building. And the man who wrote the words, “wall of separation between church and State” attended those services every Sunday that he was in Washington. And in that great city, carved in the marble of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial are from a quote that conveys the wisdom that the Founding Fathers attempted to reflect in the beginning words of the Bill of Rights, “…the holy author of our religion, who being lord both of body and mind, yet chose not to propagate it by coercions on either, as was in his Almighty power to do, but to extend it by its influence on reason alone.”
On matters of religion, government is to remain reverent and meek as a reflection of the noble manner that the Creator invites His followers while gracing them with free will.
"Progressive" abuse of language
What constitutes news? What does the word even mean anymore? Words have gone from having specific meanings to being malleable tools used to advance a progressive agenda.
Warnings of global cooling in the 1970s became warnings of global warming in the 1990s. Then, when the facts turned out to be completely uncooperative, it became climate change, a meaningless catch-all that can be neither proven nor disproven and whose only use is to bludgeon opponents of the progressives’ “solution.” What doesn’t change is that solution. It’s always more government, more control.
All of this was done in plain sight, right in front of our noses. But like an easy mark being taken on the street in a game of three-card Monte, conservatives continued to play with barely a whimper.
This week the media focused on gay marriage. The Supreme Court heard two cases that won’t be decided for months, yet the days leading up to the hearings were plastered with stories of gay and lesbian couples designed to elicit an emotional response. The days after were filled with “analysis” about as useful as a fortune cookie. Logic, on the other hand, was absent. So was any news about the tanking economy, the lack of jobs, the failure of the progressive agenda to in any way help struggling Americans.
Opponents of gay marriage were painted as knuckle-dragging Neanderthals; supporters were portrayed as just this side of civil rights marchers staring down fire hoses and attack dogs. Progressives have been building to this moment for a decade, and the media played its part perfectly. Media bias is as much about how something is covered as what is covered.
Language is the key to communication, but it’s also the key to manipulation. This fight was won by the left the moment it introduced the words “same-sex marriage.” With that, the word was essentially redefined. Opponents played right along, adopting “traditional marriage” as their cause. Marriage always has meant one thing – the union of a man and a woman – but once it was “adjectived” a new normal was born. (I explained this and the reason for my opposition to gay marriage last year, read it here.)
But this issue is hardly the only one where language is both the first casualty and a key weapon in the battle. In fact, progressives and their media allies do this all the time and are winning because of it.
Polls show gay marriage rates about as high as polar bear attacks in Miami do on the list of concerns of Americans, but you’d think it was the key to deficit reduction and economic growth with the amount of coverage it has gotten. Similar attention inversely proportional to the concerns of the American people is being paid to other issues, and similarly weaponized words are being employed to advance them.
Immigration reform gets coverage, but little outside of handpicked sad tales of woe designed not to inform but to elicit sympathy for illegal aliens. I used that term deliberately because you’re not supposed to, yet it’s the most appropriate description of their legal status. At least for now. New terms range from “undocumented workers” to “new Americans,” neither of which makes any sense when you look at the fact surrounding their being in this country illegally. But the law and logic have no place in this fight.
Who exactly is clamoring for “comprehensive immigration reform?” We’re told illegal aliens snuck into this country to find work and send money back home to take care of their families. Were they asking for citizenship? Of course not. It’s progressives, acting “on their behalf” who are.
If our economy was in desperate need of more unskilled workers, our public education system pumps them out at an alarming rate. If we were flush with computer engineers a case could be made, but we need to import those and progressives won’t increase the number of high-skilled H1B visas without it being part of a larger package. Companies in need of skilled labor continue to move out of the country while progressives play chicken with our economic future. They don’t want high-paying jobs, they want voters – or, more correctly, votes.
The ability to work in this country could be extended to illegal aliens easily and with little fanfare or controversy, but that’s not the point. Racial politics is the progressives’ bread and butter; their quest for power was born from racism. Over the years, their tactics have changed but their object hasn’t. They obtain power by dividing – by race, by gender, by anything they can. They create victims, exploit them by claiming to be their champion, get votes, advance their agenda and gain power. But they never solve problems; they only exploit them. Ask the black community how 50-plus years of near blind loyalty to progressives has worked out for them.
The only place the tools of division are irrelevant to progressives is in their leadership. If you’re about advancing the agenda, for “the cause,” that’s all that matters. Race hustlers such as Al Sharpton fit right in, and no one says a word about Michael Moore earning tens of millions of dollars decrying the accumulation of wealth by others.
Being a progressive is a get-out-of-hypocrisy free card for damn-near anything. It’s the red queen we are constantly searching for but never finding in this never ending game of three-card Monte we keep playing with progressives. If we don’t reclaim the language we will keep losing.
PS: My friend Paolo pointed out to me how progressives used to call ex-felons “pips” or previously incarcerated persons, but now they’re called “Returning Citizens.” Felons, or even “pips,” lets you know someone committed a crime and is therefore ineligible to vote. But a “returning citizen” who is ineligible to vote, that just sounds wrong. Progressives, always in search of more votes, will win the ex-felon vote, but restoring voting rights to murders, drug dealers and the like has been a tough sell. Denying “returning citizens” the vote is an easier case to make. Forget the fact that they aren’t returning from Club Med or a stint in the Peace Corp, they’re getting out of prison, the agenda must be advanced. Expect to hear more about this in the coming years as the push to restore voting ex-felon’s voting rights continues to grow.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.